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A reader writes by Chris Eaton: Bobby Chacon changed my life

December 30, 2001

Five months shy of my 16th birthday, I was asked if I wanted to attend a boxing match with my friend and his father.

My friend Randy and I were active teens who at times were close to crossing the line from good to evil. Randy's dad was a deputy sheriff and took an interest, for obvious reasons, in our upbringing.

We headed to the Memorial Auditorium in downtown Sacramento. "Downtown" was a world away from the quiet community of Carmichael where I was raised and sheltered. Memorial Auditorium, which still stands, is a spectacular place with its bricks and ivy growing crazily about the exterior.

This night in 1982, paired two boxers for the WBC super featherweight championship of the world. It was telecast live on ABC's "Wide World of Sports." The place was packed, standing room only. We found our seats near the top of the arena and looked down upon that ring, standing gloriously dead center on the floor.

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Bobby Chacon was raised in Southern California. He had won a title in the early 70s and then lost it. He had fought great fighters of the time — Danny "Lil Red" Lopez, Alexis Arguello, Ruben Olivares and later such greats as Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, Cornelius Boza-Edwards and Art Frias. He spent nearly seven years trying to regain his title, and this night in Sacramento was his best chance.

Bobby had moved to Northern California to the small town of Oroville. He trained and lived in Oroville but fought out of Sacramento. This was his "home crowd" who had adopted him as its own.

Chacon squared off against Rafael "Bazooka" Limon, a fighter from Mexico City. They knew each other well, having fought three prior times.

After 27 rounds of boxing, they were even, with each fighter winning one and a draw called on a third. Now this was for the title, a title Limon was intent on retaining and Chacon was desperate to steal.

The bell rang for the first round and then rang 14 more times to start rounds as these warriors battled through the toughest 15 rounds in modern boxing history. They talk about Hagler-Hearns, Ali-Frazier, Leonard-Duran, I dare anybody to watch the Chacon-Limon fight of Dec. 11, 1982 and look me in the eye and say they have ever seen a better, tougher war in the squared circle.

Both fighters' faces looked like Halloween jack-o-lanterns that had been left to rot long after Halloween night. They were swollen, bloody and they were exhausted. It was almost a surreal moment to see these gladiators step off their stools in the 15th round following the beatings they had taken.

It was a classic moment, one boxing enthusiasts and anti-boxing activists live for equally. You could make a case either way, at that moment, that this was the greatest sport in the world, or the mindless, carnage of the barbaric times of ancient Rome.

It was brutal, yet so inspirational to witness such courage. These men had hearts the size of that old, beautiful building in which they were spilling their blood.

Chacon won that fight by knocking down Limon with two hard right hands with 16 seconds left in the final round. As a fitting end to a miraculous fight, Limon staggered to his feet to retain his personal dignity. He would not be knocked out.

Prior to this knockdown, the fight was scored fairly evenly and could have gone either way.

The final touch was added when ABC commentator Keith Jackson asked Bobby Chacon to comment on the fight. Bobby answered that he had dedicated the fight to his wife "who could not wait" for him. Bobby's wife had committed suicide in response to Bobby's relentless pursuit of another world championship.

What a bittersweet moment that must have been for him. Jackson ended that interview with this. "Bobby Chacon, youare the toughest person I have ever seen!"

The Chacon-Limon fight was named fight of the year for 1982. It might be the fight of the century. Bobby successfully defended his title six months later against the tough, hard-hitting Cornelius Boza-Edwards in Las Vegas; another brutal war, another stunning victory, and another fight of the year, for 1983.

I followed Bobby Chacon's career from that point and he became my hero. Although he ran into some trouble later, he remained an inspiration

in my life. Bobby groomed young fighters, the likes of world champions Loreto Garza and my personal friend Tony "The Tiger" Lopez.

Tony often reflects on his sparring days with Bobby Chacon and how hard Chacon hit. He told me how hard it is for him to hear how things have turned out for the former champ, and he aspires to help Bobby the way Bobby helped him early in his professional career.

I talked to a former great world champion Carlos Palomino, who still sees Bobby at times. I inquired about his health and he told me Bobby has seen better days, as evident on the "Real Sports" story recently on HBO. Yet, Carlos Palomino says Bobby is always happy. He told me, "I often ask Bobby when I see him to give me

some of whatever drug he's taking that makes him so happy."

He says Bobby will be OK. After the beatings he took, I guess that's all we can really

ask for.

Like the Warren Zevon song says, "Hurry on home early, hurry on home, Boom Boom Mancini's fightin' Bobby Chacon." I too would race home to see the greatest warrior I have ever seen enter a boxing ring, a man who changed my life and passion for life on a night 19 years ago.

As for Randy's dad, I remained close and followed in his footsteps. I chose a successful career in law enforcement and I owe that to him. A defining night for Bobby Chacon as well myself.

Good luck Bobby!

>> CHRIS EATON is a Brawley police officer and the director of Brawley PAL.

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